My Guest Post - Moving Beyond Survival

Whoever says that friends cannot be made online is just wrong.

Bex Mann is my friend. And we have never met face-to-face.

Bex and I started connecting online in 2009 when our adoption journeys coincided. Over the past nearly 4 years Bex has been deeply connected to every stage in our adoption and parenting story, as I have been with hers. The similarities in the ways our motherhood evolved are eery - from infertility to adoption to getting pregnant within weeks of each other. It's a connection and story that only God could write. Bex has become a fast-friend as we've prayed for each other, wept over each other's common pain, celebrated with "only God" moments, and "liked" nearly every picture each other has posted on Instagram. I'm deeply grateful for her. She's way hipper, skinnier, and younger than I am and I covet her hair. But we both have nose rings so that evens the playing field.

When Bex asked if I'd write a guest post on her blog, I quickly said "yes" then wrote a raw post late one evening while Asher slept beside me. I love her blog. Please check it out. The original post can be read HERE (including a too-kind introduction to me), but my post is below.

Moving Beyond Survival

For years we l.o.n.g.e.d to have a family. We tried the easy way, the hard way, the prayerful way, the natural way, the medical way…every way we knew how. When we reached our limit trying to have biological babies, we moved toward a dream God had put in our hearts years earlier – international adoption. Soon into our adoption process, I bumped in Bex in blog-land. A fast, mutual, and affectionate online friendship began. Though I’ve never met her in real life, we’ve prayed each other through years of crazy infertility, adoption, and pregnancy adventures.

After nearly 4 years from beginning to end, we brought home Judah and Addise (add-i-say) from Ethiopia. Just months later, the Mann’s brought home breathtaking Mercy. Judah was 2 ½ years old; Addise was just 11 months. Then, miraculously, 9 months later we were pregnant. Go back and read that again. PREGNANT. (Coincidentally, Bex got pregnant about a month before I did!) WITH CHILD. Then, our little bio boy decided he needed to meet his Ethiopian siblings early, so he arrived 7 weeks early.

In 15 months we went from zero to three children - 3 ½ years old, 2 years, and a newborn. And we effortlessly moved into survival mode. After years of longing, here we were. A not-so-instant family with a bazillion needs – medical, attachment, emotional, developmental.

Occasionally I showered, but I put on make-up every day just to feel a little feminine. For months, droves of friends brought food, ran errands, and cared for our basic needs. My mom visited from the Midwest to offer support and cooking skills about 6 times. Once an avid reader, I didn’t read a single book for over a year. I cleaned my house about every 3 weeks. I never, ever, ever worked out, though I grimaced at the post-baby pounds that didn’t fall off with breastfeeding like everyone promised (Liars, all of them). My husband got laid off from his job this past fall. All the while I continued pastoring full-time at our church. Life was – and is – crazy.

I’ve come to believe that surival mode is a gift from God. He graced us with the cloud of ignorance because we just couldn’t do anything more than survive. Now, 27 months into parenting our little brood I’m beginning to lift my head from the tyrrany of the urgent. Beginning. I’ve realized that our family’s had three unwritten, barely articulated goals in the madness of these past 2 years.

First, get $h!t done. Kids need to eat at least three times per day. They need clean diapers every once in a while. Dishes need to make their way from the table to the sink to the dishwasher. Baths are helpful a couple times a week. We need clean clothes. Bills must be paid. Email needs to be checked. Meetings needed to be planned and lead well. Plans needed to be developed. Everyday there’s just a lot of stuff to get done. So, get as much done as divinely possible.

Second, keep people alive. This is where meals and safety and wisdom came into play. But mainly feed the little ones and make sure they don’t drown in the bathtub while you’re cooking pasta.

Third, love each other as best we can. Our oldest two kiddos came home from Ethiopia with a host of (expected) issues – medical, language, developmental, attachment. Our littlest one came home from the hospital with a couple, minor medical issues and normal newborn needs. It’s very easy to let the multitude of real needs overtake the greatest need. At the end of the day, have we spoken kindly to each other? Have we smothered each other in kisses? Have my kids heard me say more than once today “I love you, no matter what”? Have our kids seen me kiss my husband and connect with him more than just as a “divide and conquer” partner? Have we smiled at each other more than we’ve barked instructions as we get $h!t done? Have we said “I’m sorry; will you forgive me” as needed? Love covers a multitude of sins.

So, that’s where we are these days. Three simple goals that are about more than we can handle. Sure, I can’t wait to get back to my pre-baby weight and go on bi-monthly dates with my man and have a normal 8-hour work day, but those days will come. I’m learning to embrace all the more the “unforced rhythms of grace” (Matthew 11) that Jesus offers me. He knows my madness and he’s okay with my survival these days. It’s actually in that surival that I can experience that supernatural grace and power that I desperately need. Amen.

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April L. Diaz

April has been a visionary activist her entire life. She has made it her mission to lead high performing teams and develop leaders in the margins of society while caring for our bodies, mind, and spirit. Secretly, she’s a mix of a total girly girl and a tomboy, and is still crazy about her high school sweetheart, Brian. Together, they co-parent 3 fabulous kiddos and live in Orange County, CA.